GRIMSBY Town’s three-match league unbeaten sequence came to an end as Crewe Alexandra won at Blundell Park.
The Mariners started well but their visitors grew into the game as the first half went on and after James McKeown superbly kept out a penalty from Chris Dagnall, they eventually took the lead through George Cooper in stoppage time.
Town battled well and pushed hard for an equaliser after the break but it was not to come and after James Jones struck from close range with six minutes to go, the home side’s fate was sealed.
It meant the Mariners failed to score for the first time in a game since their return to the Football League as Crewe made it four wins on the spin for them in all competitions.
Town boss Paul Hurst named the same starting XI for the third game in a row after positive results on the road at Luton and Notts County.
McKeown began in goal, with Ben Davies, Shaun Pearson, Josh Gowling and Danny Andrew forming the defence.
Ashley Chambers, Luke Summerfield, Brandon Comley and Dominic Vose were the midfielders, with leading scorer Omar Bogle paired with Shaun Tuton in attack.
New signing Danny Collins was handed a place on the bench, where he was joined by Craig Disley, Kayden Jackson, James Berrett, Tom Bolarinwa, Scott Vernon and Dean Henderson.
Crewe arrived in Cleethorpes looking to extend a run which had seen them win each of their last three games in all competitions.
Among the players to watch in manager Steve Davis’ line-up would be strikers Ryan Lowe and Chris Dagnall, as well as Chelsea loanee Alex Kiwomya, who started on the left wing.
Chambers and Davies worked an early opening for the right-back to send a cross over towards Vose at the far post but the ball went out of play for a goal kick before it could reach the winger.
Tuton then did well to charge down an attempted clearance and Vose took the ball on into the penalty area but overran it out for a goal kick.
Crewe’ first opportunity to threaten came when Dagnall was tripped by Pearson midway inside the Town half on eight minutes. George Cooper shot from the resulting free kick but the ball was deflected away for a corner, which was pushed clear by McKeown.
The visitors retained possession until the ball was crossed from the right but Dagnall’s header was caught by the Grimsby keeper.
Another away free kick came for a foul on Kiwomya on 16 minutes but Jones’ delivery was headed clear by Gowling.
At the other end, a nice move by the Mariners eventually saw the ball pushed through for Tuton but defender Harry Davis did well to get back and put a good challenge in to end the danger.
Pearson had to concede a corner at the near post after Lowe had been found in space but the set-piece was well dealt with, as Bogle put the ball out for a throw-in after the flag-kick was taken short.
A foul by Davies on Dagnall on the Crewe left brought more pressure for the Town defence but again, they were able to hold firm as Gowling headed clear.
As the half-hour approached, goalmouth action had been at a premium as both sides tested each other out, with neither goalkeeper called into any serious action so far.
Left-back Zoumana Bakayogo was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Chambers inside the Town half, but the Mariners were unable to make anything from the resulting free kick.
A potential turning point came on the half-hour, when a cross from Cooper on the left which did not look to be particularly dangerous was handled by Gowling, who had put an arm up in the air. Referee Michael Salisbury pointed to the penalty spot but Dagnall’s kick was brilliantly saved by McKeown, who dived to his right and then got straight back up to stop the rebound before the ball was eventually scrambled clear.
Pearson had to concede another corner after a flowing Crewe move from left to right with six minutes to play before the break but again, the danger from the flag was dealt with.
Town were on the attack seconds later and they thought they had the opening goal. Bogle turned and shot from 25 yards and after the effort proved too hot for keeper Ben Garratt to hold onto, the ball was tapped into the net by Tuton but the offside flag had already gone up against the striker.
A foul on Chambers on halfway brought a second Crewe booking for Danny Hollands but the resulting free kick led to a header looping through to Garratt.
At the other end, a handball by Summerfield gave the away side a free kick near the angle of the penalty area on the right. Cooper’s delivery towards the far post was met by Kiwomya but his half-volley flew over the bar.
Two added minutes were signalled and the Mariners were not to survive until the interval as the visitors opened the scoring in the second of the extra minutes. A loose pass by Summerfield was pounced upon and after a through-ball from Lowe to COOPER inside the box, he slotted it past McKeown and into the net.
Town went on the attack in an attempt to restore parity but they were unable to force a chance before the half-time whistle.
That meant it was 1-0 to the visitors at the interval and on the balance of play, it was a lead which they deserved.
No changes were made by either management team before the restart and an offside flag against Tuton brought an early Town attack to an end.
At the other end, McKeown ha to make another good save after Davies lost possession in midfield. Lowe took the ball on and looked set to make it 2-0 but the keeper raced off his line to make a vital block.
Town’s next attack saw Comley brought down by Dagnall in a dangerous position slightly left of centre on 50 minutes but Davies could only hit the Crewe wall with his shot from the free kick.
Another short back-pass put McKeown under pressure again as Dagnall looked to pounce but again, McKeown did well to come off his line and get his team out of trouble.
Cooper tried a shot from outside the box but it drifted harmlessly over the bar and into the travelling Crewe supporters in the Osmond Stand.
A foul by Chambers earned him a talking-to from the referee, before a penalty appeal from the Pontoon Stand for a push on Tuton as a cross came over from the Town left was waved away.
Bogle was the first Town player to be booked after the referee lost patience with him for a succession of petty fouls.
Soon afterwards, the Mariners won a corner on the right but the Crewe defence got the ball clear after Vose’s delivery.
The first Town change came on 65 minutes, with Jackson replacing Tuton up front.
A foul on Vose gave the hosts a chance to get the ball into the danger zone but after the initial free kick failed to cause a problem, the ball broke for Vose but he dragged a low effort wide of the far post.
A cross from Jackson was headed away, before a low, powerful effort from Comley was well held by keeper Garratt.
Bogle won a corner when his chipped cross was deflected out of play and it soon led to a second, which was caught by the keeper.
Bogle was then penalised for a foul on Bakayogo after doing well to chase back. The visitors were unable to profit from the free kick.
A corner at the other end came on 71 minutes but the ball was punched clear by McKeown, with Davies completing the clearance.
Gowling was adjudged to have fouled Kiwomya as the winger looked to break clear but was stopped 25 yards from goal by the centre-back. Gowling was booked after arguing with the referee about the decision and the free kick was eventually put wide by Lowe.
Bolarinwa replaced Vose with 15 minutes to go and immediately slotted in on the right as Town looked to use his pace to make a difference.
A cross from Andrew on the left was dealt with, as was a low ball from Bolarinwa on the opposite flank as the hosts looked to force an equaliser.
Pearson fouled his man as he tried to let the ball go out for a goal kick on the Crewe right but the free kick was caught by McKeown.
At the other end, an excellent challenge inside the box denied Summerfield as Town kept pushing forward.
Goalscorer Cooper was replaced by Charlie Kirk for the visitors with 10 minutes left, as they looked to see the remainder of the game out.
Town went close again on 83 minutes when Andrew let fly from outside the box but again, Garratt did well to hold onto the ball.
And when the game’s second goal eventually did come a minute later, it was the visitors who completed a good away performance by sealing the three points. Town failed to clear the ball as it ricocheted around the six-yard box and JONES eventually forced it over the line despite the best efforts of Gowling to keep it out.
Dagnall had the ball in the net on 87 minutes but the offside flag had already gone up as the ball was squared to him and the score remained at 2-0.
Kiwomya went down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury and required lengthy treatment before being helped off the pitch to be replaced by Billy Bingham.
Five added minutes were signalled and after no further chances of note were created, the visitors were left to celebrate their win.